CHIEF scientist and engineer Prof Mary O'Kane was the guest of honour at the Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor's Awards for Excellence gala function on Friday night.
The Southern Cross University VC Awards for Excellence, now in its second year, recognise excellence by researchers, academics and professional staff across the University's key areas of teaching and learning, research, performance, and community engagement.
Professor O'Kane acknowledged the critical role the university played in instilling excellence in its students by highlighting outstanding contributions made by the students' lecturers and researchers.
"I encourage the university to build on this excellence and embrace the notion of innovation education," she said.
"Innovation education is one way to address Australia's productivity growth problem and improve the country's capacity for innovation.
"In essence, we are good at teaching and generating knowledge but not good at translating knowledge into wealth, turning it into skills, products and services."
Vice Chancellor Prof Peter Lee said the university strives to develop a high performance culture in an environment which encourages collaboration and the free exchange of ideas.
"Professor O'Kane was appointed NSW's first Chief Scientist and Engineer in 2008," he said.
"Among her responsibilities was to lift the quality and level of scientific activity in NSW and champion the state's future workforce needs across science, engineering and innovation."
SCU is offering a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) from 2013 to equip students with the relevant skills and knowledge to provide a range of professional services in civil engineering, and in particular, those skills of most relevance in regional and rural communities.
The degree is being launched at the Northern Rivers Science and Engineering Challenge on June 7.
The awards were held at the university's Lismore campus.